More this week from Richard Calderon:
‘MEMORIALS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD’ – ANAMNESIS
The God of Israel is intensely interested in His children, and like all parents He loves to remember milestones in their moral growth, be these moments of covenant surrender, of repentance, or of generosity to the poor and the infirm. God repeatedly reminds Israel that He is forever mindful of such milestones, which move Him to forgive trespasses. The technical Israelite term for a vivid and forgiveness-inducing memory in the mind of God is ‘a memorial before the Lord’ or more simply ‘a memorial’—in Hebrew zikkaron. The Bible provides multiple instances of these ‘memorials’ such as:
- In Exodus 30: 16, God declares that financial contributions towards the construction of the Tabernacle and furnishings constitute ‘a memorial of the donors before the Lord.’
- Ecclesiasticus 35: 8-9 states that ‘the sacrifice of the just is acceptable, and the Lord will not forget the memorial thereof.’
- Generous pagans are also capable of making ‘memorials.’ In Acts 10: 3-31, an angel visits Cornelius and informs him that ‘thy prayers and alms are ascended as a memorial in the sight of God.’
Especially in times of distress, the Israelites will implore God to forgive them for the sake of His beloved prophets and patriarchs. The word ‘memorial’ in English suggests something past, an event that is preserved by some faded memento, or awakened by a dimly remembered emotion. But for ancient Israel, ‘memorials’ are vivid and alive to God. Presenting a ‘memorial’ to God stimulates in Him a willingness to forgive and to bless.
The technical Septuagint Greek term for a ‘memorial in the mind of God’ is anamnesis, a bewildering concept for pagans, who eagerly inscribe their names as patrons on theaters, temples, sculptures and public baths as memorials to fellow citizenry. But the wind, the waves and other deified forces possess no memory, are mindful of no one and recall nothing.
Nevertheless, anamnesis is the technical term correctly used in the New Testament and in the writings of the first Church Fathers. The Eucharist service of the Church is an ‘anamnesis’ offered by the Mystical Body of Christ, an ‘anamnesis’ which bestows eternal life, forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the power of Satan. The earliest surviving Christian liturgy to remind God of His Son’s supreme sacrifice uses the term ‘anamnesis’ explicitly in this sense.
Taking bread and giving thanks to Thee He said:
‘Take eat: This is My Body which is broken for you’.
Likewise the cup saying:
‘This is My Blood which is shed for you
Whenever you do this,
You [will] make My Anamnesis’ [i]
(The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus IV: 9)
[i] Gregory Dix, The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, 8